As a DM I’m always on the lookout for ideas that I can throw into my campaign. It doesn’t matter how seemingly irrelevant the source may be, once I put my gaming mind to work I can often come up with an idea for an encounter or an adventure in just about any source of popular media be it a movie, novel, video game, comic book or television show. The key is to imagine how the situation could be adapted to suit your needs. You’re not often going to find a situation or idea that’s perfectly suited for D&D when you experience it (sorry, the real world just isn’t a fantasy role-playing game) so you need to be creative.
To demonstrate the abundance of ideas in the most obvious places I focused my attention on The Simpsons. I think it’s safe to say that most gamers are fans of the show and that almost every scene and snippet of dialogue from the first few seasons is emblazoned in the minds of gamers in the 35-45 demographic. Yet even with a table of gamers who all possess near perfect recall of the earliest episodes of The Simpsons, you can still base an adventure or encounter around some of the best episodes and the players are unlikely to recognize that it was inspired by The Simpsons. To prove it, here are five examples.
“The Simpsons” Adventure Hooks
The Telltale Head (Episode 7G06)
The PCs need to win over a group of rogues. Perhaps they are tying to join a thieves’ guild or they are just working undercover. In order to prove their worth the party steals a jewel encrusted head from a sculpture in the local church. The plan is to show the rogues what they’ve accomplished and then return the head. Unfortunately the decapitated sculpture is discovered before the PCs can reveal their spoils to the rogues. A substantial reward is offered for the head’s return. The PCs realize that if they show the rogues the head they’ll likely kill them for it to get the reward. What do the PCs do next?
Simpson and Delilah (Episode 7F02)
The PCs find themselves in a town with corrupt politicians during an election. The downtrodden common-folk are looking for a fresh face to run against the corrupt incumbent. One of the PCs is eventually asked to run for office. The good news is that the PCs recently acquire a magical potion that temporarily raises the imbiber’s Charisma during social interactions. If they use the potion it will easily win over the masses and likely result in a landslide victory. The bad news is that there aren’t enough doses to last the entire election campaign and as strangers it’s unlikely the PCs will win without the potion. How does the party proceed?
One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish (Episode 7F11)
The heroes are honoured with a feast after their latest victory. Unfortunately one of the delicacies they are served turns out to be toxic and there’s a good chance some or all of them will die by this time tomorrow. The Lord is so distraught when he learns he might have killed the heroes he gives them nearly limitless resources to do whatever they want during the next 24 hours. What does each PC do with his remaining time?
Old Money (Episode 7F17)
The party is asked to undertake a rescue mission to free an imprisoned ambassador. Rescuing him should be a relatively easy task, but it will take a month to get to the prison and back. One of the PCs has recently fallen in love (with an older woman) and isn’t wild about leaving her as their romance is still budding. The heroes return to discover the lover has died. She bequeathed her entre fortune to the PC but asks he use it to help people. What does he do with his new found wealth?
Three Men and a Comic Book (Episode 7F21)
The PCs find a magical tome in “The Android’s” dungeon. Any PC who possess the item receives increased strength and improved resistances. The benefits only last until the end of the PCs next extended rest. After that the PC must relinquish the tome for a full day before they can gain the benefits again. Any PC who benefits from the tome becomes increasingly paranoid for each day they don’t possess it and believes everyone else wants to keep the tome for themselves. The tome is incredibly valuable and powerful, but it seems cursed. Do the PCs keep it, sell it, destroy or, or worse?
With over 500 episodes and counting, The Simpsons can be a rich sources of inspiration for imaginative DMs. Every episode may not get your creative juices flowing but with so many to choose from you’re bound to find something you can use in your next campaign. Good luck!